Categories
Museum

Spotlight on… Museum of London ‘Collecting COVID’

Spotlight on… the Museum of London which chronicles the story of the capital and its people from 450,000 BC to the present day across three sites; the Barbican (with plans to move to Smithfield), Docklands and an archaeological store in Hackney. Though all three sites are currently closed due to the pandemic, the museum has launched a ‘Collecting COVID’ initiative encouraging Londoners to donate physical and digital objects as well as their experiences of the unprecedented period we are living through, to record it for future generations. London has been a metropolitan hub for centuries, so this is not the first epidemic faced, and it has overcome the Black Death of 1348, the Great Plague of 1665, smallpox from 1889 to 1893 and the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918 amongst others. The museum already holds objects relating to past pandemics within its collection, such as a segmental pomander in the shape of watch allowing 17th century Londoners to carry herbs and infusions thought to ward off infection during the plague, a printed handkerchief made to mourn the loss of Queen Victoria’s grandson who died in 1892, and an early 20th century advert for Flu-Mal – a product claiming to prevent and cure influenza. The museum is keen to capture the voices and experiences of a broad range of Londoners enabling them to better tell the varied stories of lockdown. There are three main areas of focus: capturing the physical alterations to the city from bustling streets to eerily empty, the effects on working life for frontline keyworkers as well as those working remotely from home rather than in offices, and the impact on children and young people adapting to life without school or educational institutions. Photographs, diaries, handmade signs of support for the NHS, unusual print facemasks, and anything relating to this period of our history are of interest. If you would like to donate, get in touch via social media @MuseumofLondon or email enquiry@museumoflondon.org, and support one of this museums’ first big projects to shift from the Museum of London to the Museum for London.

Image: Advert for Flu-Mal, early 20th century © Museum of London

Categories
Historic House Museum

Spotlight on… Charles Dickens Museum

Spotlight on… Charles Dickens Museum, a Victorian townhouse in Bloomsbury and former family home of Dickens where he penned classics including Oliver Twist, Nicholas Nickleby and Pickwick Papers. Typically open to the public it offers an insight into the private life of the author; his study, dining room, family bedrooms and serving quarters as well as a display space for the collection, a courtyard garden and café. The current pandemic and its’ temporary closure has meant that the museum has lost almost all of its income, but visit their website and you can still delve into the collection and go behind the scenes whilst the doors are closed. An interactive tour gives you a 360 degree view of each room in the entire building, and the opportunity to explore privately and have the space to yourself. At the end of April, they launched their Collections Online site giving virtual access to furniture, paintings, photographs, letters, manuscripts, rare editions and Dickens memorabilia such as a 1968 handmade doll of Miss Havisham from Great Expectations and a ceramic and textile pin cushion of Mr Pickwick circa 1900. On Instagram Dickens’ great great great grandchildren have been reading extracts from his novels, including a fitting passage about a smallpox epidemic and quarantine in Bleak House. Their online newsletter also keeps you informed with teasers about their upcoming temporary exhibition due to open once restrictions are lifted, named Technicolour Dickens: The Living Image of Charles Dickens which will feature images of the author throughout his career as well as clothing, personal items, and a selection of original photographs from their collection which have undergone colourisation. Purchases from their aptly titled ‘Old Curiosity Shop’ are still available online, with jigsaw puzzles, tote bags, books and mugs all based around his famous novels for sale – items arguably more sought after than ever during the lockdown!

Image: Study Newangle, Copyright, Charles Dickens Museum

Categories
Museum

Spotlight on… The Fitzwilliam Museum

Spotlight on… The Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge. Breaking away from the London-centric focus of this blog, largely due to my inability not to write about digitally reworked paintings depicting their sitters with now ubiquitous Covid-19 face masks, but more on that later! It houses an encyclopaedic collection of over half a million objects spanning the ancient world, paintings, drawings and prints, applied arts, coins, medals, manuscripts and books. Typically offering free entry to the public, but temporarily closed due to the pandemic, the museum has made an original and cogent contribution to digital museum offerings. In April they launched their  Look, Think, Do virtual family activities, utilising objects from their collection including a coffin lid of Ramases III from 12th century BC Egypt, a Mosque Lamp from Damascus circa 1355 and an engraved printed plate titled ‘American Flamingo’ produced between 1827-30. May saw them announce The Fitz Stitch seeking 45 craft volunteers to contribute squares to a quilt which will be hung in the Courtyard Entrance by the end of September 2020, all pieces will be linked to the collection but in as abstract or literal a representation as participants would like. Building on their already successful Dancing in Museums initiative working with older people in isolation, they have addressed wellbeing and released seven films which all begin with a guided relaxation followed by an exploration of a painting by Monet, Sisley, Alma-Tadema or Renoir amongst others. Last week they also announced ‘Masterpieces 2020’ where renowned paintings have been digitally altered and released as greetings cards reflecting the current circumstances; Belgian artist Alfred Stevens ‘La Liseuse’ shows his subject wearing a delicate lace face mask whilst reading her book, pre-Raphaelite artist John Everett Millais’ ‘The Bridesmaid’ features an added yellow silk face mask matching her dress, Renaissance master Titian’s ‘Venus and Cupid with a lute-player’ shows all three figures wearing face masks not just the reclining nude, and Dutch artist Jan van Meyer’s ‘The Daughters’ depicts the four girls each with a unique face mask matching their dresses. Though the grand neo-classical building and collection may have a traditional reputation, these virtual offerings highlight their progressive and dynamic capacity.

Categories
Gallery Museum

Spotlight on… Camden Art Centre

Spotlight on… Camden Art Centre, an imposing yet welcoming red brick building in north-west London originally constructed as a public library. Open as an art centre for five decades, it combines the original architecture with modern spaces and a serene garden, offering the public free access to exhibitions, courses, talks and events. Although currently closed due to Covid-19, this has not halted their programme as the new exhibition ‘The Botanical Mind: Art, Mysticism and The Cosmic Tree’ has gone ahead with a online offering to accompany the physical one postponed until later in the year. It explores the relationship between plants and humans in various religions, global cultures and civilisations throughout history via drawings, watercolours, photography, film, archaeological artefacts, textiles, ceramics, isomorphology, written texts and multimedia commissions. Collectively it spans everything from moss, to potatoes, flower formation, plant organisms, indigenous groups living alongside plant-life in rainforests, astrology, mandalas, the hallucinatory and stimulant properties of plants and much more. A virtual Family Art Club was launched at the end of May which will run until early July, led by current artist in residence Renata Minoldo and tied into themes related to the exhibition, with new activities released every two weeks on Sundays online. Their Youth Collective initiative which typically offers people aged 15 to 21 a space to engage with and discuss visual arts with their peers is continuing virtually, via weekly artist-led workshops and monthly digital events, with the hope of hosting the annual Youth Collective Curates exhibition onsite later in the year. They have also partnered with Central Saint Martins giving twelve students Instagram takeovers, offering an insight into how the next generation of artists are responding to and indeed continuing their practice during the pandemic, aptly titled ‘15713’ as this number represents the accumulative miles these students are from Camden Art Centre, either working from their homes across the UK or overseas. There is also a bookshop and café on site, and their café partner – Cantine London – fed frontline workers at the Royal London Hospital in March and have launched a delivery service where the public can order and donate a meal to NHS staff. In congruity with the “botanical” theme, their digital offerings are evolving and growing with new content added each week.

Categories
Experience outdoor

Spotlight on… The Line

Spotlight on… The Line, an outdoor sculpture trail that follows the Greenwich Meridian and runs from the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park to The 02. It creates an opportunity to explore London’s often ignored waterways and allows the public to enjoy art, nature and heritage for free. It recently celebrated it’s 5th birthday, and following Covid-19 and the lockdown measures, has also adapted quickly by launching The Line Online, enabling access via an interactive virtual map. The new website also showcases collaborations with The British Museum, Getty Images, the National Portrait Gallery, Royal Museums Greenwich and Museum of London, who have all provided fascinating historic images of life along these waterways and the different areas The Line passes through. These include black and white photographs of elephants returning to London’s docks following a touring circus, the construction of the Thames Barrier, and female workers at Bromley by Bow Gas Works having tea. Although the trail route is set, the artworks are regularly refreshed with certain sculptures removed and new pieces added. Current monolithic works include Richard Wilson’s ‘A Slice of Reality’, a vertical section of an ocean sand dredger now situated on the foreshore of the Thames exposing the living quarters and engine room, Joanna Rajkowska’s ‘The Hatchling’, a large scale replica of a blackbird egg complete with the sound of hatching chicks recorded by ornithologists emitting from the egg which acts as a speaker, Abigail Fallis’ ‘DNA DL90’ made from 22 shopping trolleys in the shape of a double-helix, and Antony Gormley’s ‘Quantum Cloud’ comprising 29 x 16 x 10 metres of galvanised steel. Past participating artists include Martin Creed, Damien Hirst, Sterling Ruby, James Balmforth, Eduardo Palozzi and Bill Viola amongst others – and future works are set to come from Rana Begum, Thomas J Price, Anne Hardy, Larry Achiampong and Yinka Ilori. As The Line is outdoors, the public can now safely walk, run or cycle its length responsibly. Moving forwards it will continue to add interest to these often overlooked parts of the city, connect people and place, and support mental and physical wellbeing for those venturing out again after months of lockdown.

Categories
outdoor

Spotlight on… Peter Liversidge

Spotlight on… Peter Liversidge’s outdoor installation ‘Currently and tomorrow’. A couple of weeks into April some cardboard placards appeared on the corner of Wennington Green, a small park in east London at the junction of Roman Road and Grove Road, with “Thank You NHS”, “NHS Heroes”, “Stay Safe – Isolate”, and “Thank You Bin Men” written on them, and over the last couple of months it has grown and grown. Literally hundreds of placards have sprung up on the corner of the street and now run the length of the railings down the road, and have recently begun appearing on the railings on the opposite side of the street as there is no more space! In addition to the original signs, there are now placards in support of and thanking teachers, post men and women, key workers, shop staff, care home workers, social workers, lorry and delivery drivers, and essential cleaners. There are also calls for “More PPE”, “More Tests”, “Do Not Privatise the NHS. Support It” and for social distancing, encouraging people to “Stay 2 Metres Apart”. This is intermingled with official banners from the local council (Tower Hamlets) echoing similar sentiments with official messaging to “Stay at Home. Protect the NHS. Save Lives” and “Social Distancing Saves Lives. Stay two metres apart”. These text based signs are interspersed with few image led placards of rainbows; now synonymous with NHS support during Covid-19 and hearts for the NHS. Whilst these initially look like the work of rogue – well actually quite well intentioned – local residents, these placards are all down to British contemporary artist, Peter Liversidge. He has been based in London since 1996 and is known for his use of proposals and experimental projects where objects, performances or happenings occur over the course of an exhibition. Each day the artist adds another placard, and a few people have asked to donate a placard here and there (and no doubt some covert ones have been added to the mass by members of the public over the last couple of months). It follows on nicely from his earlier projects including ‘Notes on Protesting’ in collaboration with a local primary school displayed at Whitechapel Gallery in 2015 featuring placards and a video work, and his 2013 collection of ‘Free Signs’ also at Whitechapel Gallery. Though the pandemic is currently keeping the doors to museums and galleries closed, keep your eyes open as artists are now taking to the streets to brighten up and bring meaning to these strange and surreal times.
Categories
Gallery Museum

Spotlight on… Freelands Foundation

Spotlight on… Freelands Foundation, a charitable foundation that supports artists, art education and cultural institutions across the UK. The Foundation also has a gallery space in London located between Chalk Farm and Primrose Hill which is currently closed to the public due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, but that has far from stopped their educational, grant, partnership, research and other broad ranging activities from continuing apace. The Foundation has committed £3 million to emergency funding for all artists and freelancers across the UK affected by the pandemic. Of this sum, £1.5 million will be for their new Freelands Foundation Emergency Fund offering grants between £1,500 – £2,500 to applicants in England and Northern Ireland, in addition to the £1 million already contributed to Creative Scotland’s Bridging Bursary, and £500,000 to Art Council of Wales Urgent Response Fund – collectively helping to support creatives across the country who are falling through the gaps of existing government support. In collaboration with Artangel, the Foundation has also launched the ‘Thinking Time’ initiative to fund twenty early to mid-career artists living and working in the UK to research, reflect and develop their ideas through £5,000 grants and mentoring over the next six months. For the last five years, the Foundation has been collaborating with the Institute of Education, University College London and Hato Design to create an exhibition with art teachers on the Arts & Design PGCE course. This year the final exhibition ‘Must, Should, Could’ is a virtual offering due to coronavirus, and can be viewed on their website. Other educational activities include their Artist Teacher forums which typically take place each half term, and have not been suspended but instead are now digital, with the first online forum taking place earlier this month where teachers and educators could engage with their peers and share ideas, projects and possible collaborations. The Foundation have also launched a new Freelands Painting Prize to celebrate talent of undergraduate level artists, which will culminate in an exhibition in the autumn (though it remains to be seen if this will be in their physical gallery space or online, depending on the pandemic). The eight winners have been announced and represent talent from all areas of the UK, coming from the University of Brighton, Plymouth College of Art, Lancaster University, Edinburgh College of Art, University of the Creative Arts, Dundee University, City & Guilds Art School and Manchester Metropolitan University. For more information about Freelands Foundation and the work they do, and how they are adapting and supporting artists during these unprecedented times visit their website.

 

Categories
Gallery Museum Uncategorized

Let’s get digital… part 3

In my last two posts I have explored what museums and galleries are doing to engage the public with their collections or artists whilst their physical doors are closed. However, they have also come up with a creative range of digital fundraising initiatives to support the Covid-19 pandemic efforts. Gagosian has started the #GagosianChallenge by releasing a customizable poster designed by Michael Craig Martin, with the words ‘Health Workers Thank You’ on it, and is encouraging people to post their completed versions on Instagram by 11 May. Hauser & Wirth and Rashid Johnson have released the series ‘Untitled Anxious Red Drawings’ online, with a percentage of all sales donated to the Covid-19 Solidarity Response Fund. White Cube and Harland Miller launched a coronavirus fundraiser, selling editions of the artists’ ‘Who Cares Wins’ print for £5,000 each. They all sold out within 24 hours with proceeds split between the National Emergencies Trust in the UK, the New York Community Trust and HandsOn Hong Kong, as well the York Teaching Hospital Charity to support NHS staff in hospitals across Yorkshire, where Miller was born. Damian Hirst has also designed ‘Butterfly Rainbow’ and a limited edition is being produced, which will be sold with all profits going to the NHS. Maureen Paley in conjunction with other galleries and over 200 photographers have donated prints for #photographsforthetrusseltrust, each selling for £100 with proceeds going towards 1,200 food banks which have seen a 300% increase in demand since the pandemic outbreak. Over thirty artists and creatives including Wolfgang Tillmans, Katherine Hamnet, Vivienne Westwood, Polly Nor and Jeffersen Hack have collaborated with Dazed in the #AloneTogether campaign to contribute works to raise funds for Barts Health NHS Trust, which has launched an emergency Covid-19 appeal to support their frontline staff. Tillmans has also enlisted forty artists, including Andreas Gursky, Thomas Ruff, Elizabeth Peyton and David Wojanrowicz to donate posters of their works for his #2020Solidarity campaign, which he is paying for printing and distribution of, to support informal places of culture, nightlife and music venues at risk of going out of business because of the Covid-19 outbreak. Art4Changes have collaborated with Roger Ballen, David Datuna, Ultra Violet and other artists to support the Covid-19 crisis by selling artworks, memorabilia, merchandise, music tracks, lectures and books, with all proceeds donated to either the Red Cross, World Health Organisation or Centre for Disease Control in any country the buyer chooses. Outdoor sculpture trail, The Line, has released 100 editions of an Abigail Fallis’ print of her shopping trolley installation, DNA DL90, for £100 each with 30% of profits being donated to Covid-19 frontline workers, and more prints will be released over the coming weeks. Mixed media artist Dan Pearce is reworking iconic film posters to help share NHS messaging in a fun, light-hearted way and is releasing a new reworked A2 poster every week, which will go on sale for £75 each with proceeds going to NHS Charities Together Covid-19 Urgent Appeal. Wimbledon Art Fair will be a purely virtual event this year, and their #ArtSOS running from 14 – 17 May will showcase thought provoking artworks depicting defining moments of the current pandemic, with a percentage of total sales being donated to the NHS and St George’s Hospital in Tooting. Andrew Salgado and Rachel Howard amongst other artists are also donating signed, limited edition posters with a percentage of sales going to The Hospital Rooms via #artistssupportpledge, a charity that transforms impatient health units with contemporary art – and increasingly pertinent in the current circumstances. This is just a handful of the online offerings, so have a look to see what’s out there and maybe even nab yourself a bargain artwork whilst supporting the current pandemic efforts!

Categories
Gallery

Let’s get digital… part 2

In my last post, I looked at what the Nationals and other museums in London are doing to engage audiences during the Covid-19 pandemic, but they’re not the only ones creating new solutions to closed doors – as London gallery innovations bear witness to. Serpentine Galleries are offering digital guides to their current exhibitions, allowing you to explore interactively with additional content, audio, video and curator tours. They are also delivering online Saturday Talks, podcasts and digital commissions as well as offering weekly book recommendations to help keep minds and imaginations going. Gagosian have launched #GagosianSpotlight, a new online artist series, highlighting individual artists, one week at a time, who have had exhibitions affected by the current coronavirus crisis. As well as looking at their practice, it also includes videos, interviews, playlists and other insights into their artists’ inspiration. Sadie Coles have started an #AnswersfromIsolation series posing pertinent questions to their artists including “has the current isolation given you time to do or make something that you might not have”, “tell us about your current projects that have been delayed due to Covid-19”, as well as recipe tips and other insights. Victoria Miro are publishing long reads, hosting online in conversation… with their artists, and have partnered up with nine other contemporary art galleries in Venice to open the ‘virtual’ doors of their storage and allow a rare look behind the scenes; as each week, each gallery will pick an artwork from their store to share on the #VeniceGalleriesView platform. Edel Asanti have launched #ContactlessDeliveries comprising written responses to the global pandemic shared in text or in spoken word films. Each is delivered from a personal perspective and responds to the previous contributor. They have also begun #HomeFires, a series of five minute conversations between the artistic Director and their artists, discussing a recent or ongoing body of work. The Photographers’ Gallery’s #TPGTalks offers a wealth of online podcasts, videos and interviews from photographers, writers and curators drawn from their extensive Talks & Events Programme. The already active digital programme has also collaborated with Fotomuseum Winterhur to launch #ScreenWalks, offering a series of live streamed artist/research led explorations of the cultural sectors online spaces as the physical spaces currently lie redundant due to Covid-19. White Cube have launched an #InTheStudio series where each week a represented artist shares a diary of their activities under lockdown (kicked off by Tracey Emin), and have also started an #InsideWhiteCube post where staff members are introduced and talk about what they are seeing, thinking, reading, watching and listening to during isolation. Lisson Gallery have partnered with Augment, and app whose technology allows people to visualise 3D objects and artworks in augmented reality through their smartphones and tablets. Freelands Foundation have similarly harnessed 3D scanning technology, allowing people to now view their exhibition of four female artists’ works on their website. This is just a selection of what’s out there, and I will endeavour to see what else is going on and what new ideas emerge as the lockdown and social distancing continues.

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Gallery Museum

Let’s get digital!

Whilst museums and galleries are likely to remain closed for the coming months, that doesn’t have to stop you engaging with their collections and what better time to think, innovate, discuss and debate online – when we all likely have some extra time on our hands during the corona-crisis. The National Gallery offer virtual tours via Google Street View, and you can sign up to their newsletter and YouTube channel featuring lunchtime talks, curator and art restoration specials, and snapshots on artists or specific works. The Victoria & Albert Museum is currently airing a six part behind-the-scenes series (Secretes of the Museum) available on BBC iPlayer, has a blog, and vast learning section with educational offerings from primary school age through to museum peer learning. You can still explore the British Museum via Google Street View and over four million objects within its collection online, as well as podcasts offering talks from curators and other staff (the most recent episode focussing on women and how they have shaped the museum since its opening in 1759). Tate have a podcast subscription covering varied subjects ranging from the Art of Love, to the Art of HipHop, Innovation and Remembering as well as Tateshots; approximately six minute short films about artists, their lives and practice, or from curators. Tate Kids also offers an online “make” section, video tours, games, quizzes, accessible information on artists and movements, and a virtual gallery where budding Picasso’s can display their own works. The Natural History Museum also offers virtual tours, and each room featured allows you to zoom in on objects with links to more detailed information about certain specimens. Moving away from the nationals, Somerset House is offering a digital programme of films, podcasts, artist interviews and live streams – and the adjoining Courtald has digitised its collection allowing great online access since its closure for restoration in 2018. The home to the incurably curious (otherwise known as The Wellcome Collection) offers topical articles on Covid-19 as well as a stories section which invites anyone to submit words or pictures which explore the connections between science, medicine, life and art, with its most recent post fittingly a graphic novel about isolation. Barbican have a series of 30 minute podcasts or playlists ranging from Japanese innovators, to masculinity, jazz and autism in the cinema, as well as articles, long reads and videos available. Though the physical doors to our museums might be closed, the digital channels are well and truly open!